VOICES Notes and news on Collector's Corner releases
19 JUN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
You can't tell that the early 1960s were a time of such tumultuous change (in society and music) from the rock-solid, timeless sound of Lightnin' Hopkins' The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings (Prestige, 1991), a seven-CD box which presents more than 100 songs that this Texas blues legend recorded for these two labels between 1960 and 1964.
There's better introduction to Hopkins' homespun Texas picking and strumming than The Complete, which includes more than 30 unaccompanied tunes, several intimate college concerts, and interview segments where he shares his earliest blues experiences and deepest blues roots.
Hopkins' trademark rough and tumble but playful sound proves essential yet elusive. Sonny Terry's harmonica and voice seem to flow as naturally as maple syrup into "Conversation Blues," a highlight of Hopkins' rapport with this blues legend. Lightnin's voice overflows with hurt and wisdom in his cautionary "Automobile Blues" (when he moans, "Your car looks so pretty baby, please let me drive sometime," you can tell he's not talking about her vehicle). "Come Back Baby" and "Thinkin' 'Bout an Old Friend" are so basic they transcend the blues form into a primal experience that's simultaneously petition, prayer and praise. You may already know "Back To New Orleans" as "Baby Please Don't Go."
If seven CDs is more blues than you can use, several individual titles comprised herein remain available including Last Night Blues with Terry (Original Blues Classics, 1992) and the live sets Hootin' The Blues (OBC, 1994) and The Swarthmore Concert (OBC, 1993).
14 JUN 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Rhythm and blues singer Shirley Brown scored big with her first single, 1974's "Woman To Woman," the title track from her first album which, amazingly for a debut, reached the Top 20 on the Pop charts and #1 in R&B. And Stax recently re-released Woman To Woman in vinyl format.
A big hit for the struggling Stax label, "Woman To Woman" struck a nerve with female listeners, opening with a spoken section where Brown calls a number she found in a pocket of her "old man's" pants. The single was so popular it inspired a response release by singer Barbara Mason two years later. Mason's version used Brown's original spoken introduction, but heard over the telephone as the other woman gives her side of the story. "Woman To Woman" later became a country hit for Barbara Mandrell and was also covered by Jewell in 1994 for the soundtrack to Murder Was The Case.
At the age of 14, Brown was singing in a club in Illinois when she was discovered by Blues legend Albert King. She'd been singing in church since she was nine, developing a gospel-honed voice and style similar to Aretha Franklin's. After leaving Stax, she went on to record for various labels, including Arista and Fantasy. Brown remains a popular performer on the R&B circuit, a niche artist with an enthusiastic fan base.
On ballads like "It Ain't No Fun" and "Stay With Me," Brown's church roots are on full display and her voice soars over the tight grooves of Stax's stellar studio musicians, backup singers and arrangers. "Between You And Me" burns with a funky Wurlitzer keyboard in the rhythm section.
13 JUN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
That's Right! (Original Jazz Classics, 1993), from Concord's digital catalog, presents composer and cornet player Nat Adderley fronting one of the largest ensembles he ever played with: The Big Sax Section, which glides along a rhythm machine that includes pianist Wynton Kelly (and, sometimes, guitarist Jim Hall) and features saxophonists Yusef Lateef (also on flute and oboe), Monk favorite Charlie Rouse, Nat's big brother Cannonball Adderley and Jimmy Heath, who arranged all the music.
After warming up in "The Old Country," Adderley blows through "Chordnation" as brisk and bright as cornet master Clark Terry. Lateef's oboe mysteriously opens "Night After Night," a brief but thoroughly evocative soundscape of oboe and cornet. Adderley and Lateef sing bright but somber songs of "The Folks on the Hill" that clearly show why they are among the best cornet and flute players in modern jazz history.
The title opus begins with Nat's cornet creeping out softly upon piano and drums while the horn section purrs sleepy support, a purr that becomes a more forceful growl as the sax soloists step out and swing. Although Hall appears only twice, his guitar keeps Wayne Shorter's shimmering "E.S.P" vibrant and dynamic, and pours a sophisticated new flavor into "Tadd."
That's Right! may not completely match Nat's most famous and enduring Riverside title, Work Song (Keepnews Collection, 2008) with its "Sack O' Woe" and industrious title track. But it comes admirably close -- closer than somebody who's merely "someone else's little brother" could ever come.
05 JUN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The instrumental and oral voice of Max Roach was often heard among the most politically outspoken voices of the turbulent 1960s. But, this bebop and modern jazz drum legend foreshadowed such activism at a quintet date he recorded in 1958 which promised a future of Deeds, Not Words (Original Jazz Classics, 2009), recently re-released on vinyl.
Deeds teams Max Roach with rhythm ace bassist Art Davis plus soloists George Coleman (tenor sax), Booker Little (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). The absence of any “chord instrument” such as piano or guitar, and tuba alongside bass in the lower register, creates a unique sound that takes some getting used to.
Drums and cymbals tumble and slide like silk in and out of the groove to maintain melodic and rhythmic variety in Roach’s solo “Conversation” with himself. Oscar Pettiford steps in for Davis on the bass/drum duet “There Will Be Another You,” two musical giants going toe to toe for nearly six minutes on their respective instruments. Little sounds like he’s playing part trumpet, part flamethrower, to lead “Jodi’s Cha-Cha” and “Larry-Larue.”
The Debut Records Story (Debut, 1996) recaps the best recordings of the label that Roach co-founded with Charles Mingus, including highlights from The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall (OJC Remasters, 2012), also known as “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever,” where they held down the rhythm for Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell; and Bud Powell Trio's Jazz At Massey Hall Volume 2, without Bird and Diz.
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